And the Red Sox’s new closer is … Alfredo Aceves

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Mark Melancon seemed like the obvious closer fill-in for the Red Sox following Andrew Bailey’s thumb surgery, but manager Bobby Valentine announced today that Alfredo Aceves will begin the season with ninth-inning duties.

Melancon saved 20 games for the Astros last season, whereas Aceves has just four career saves, and while Aceves is certainly capable of thriving in the role a large part of his value comes from the rubber-armed ability to soak up innings as a bullpen workhorse (and potential rotation option).

He threw 114 innings last season, making four starts and 51 relief appearances, but very few modern managers have used closers as more than one-inning guys and very few closers pitch more than 60-70 innings per season.

Aceves’ workload figures to drop as his save total rises, so it’ll be interesting to see how Valentine deals with not having the right-hander to put out fires in all kinds of situations. Valentine said that Melancon will serve as the backup closer, getting save chances on Aceves’ days off.

Bailey, who was acquired from the A’s after Jonathan Papelbon signed a $50 million deal with the Phillies, is expected to miss 3-4 months.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.